Technology like this can offer the U.S. Navy's submarine force mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

The U.S. Navy has successfully fired a drone from a submarine underwater. 

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) created and now demonstrated an all-electric, fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system called XFC UAS, which stands for eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System. 

Here's how it works: using the the Los Angeles class USS Providence (SSN 719) and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center-Newport Division (NUWC-NPT), NRL was able to fire XFC UAS from the submarine's torpedo tube using a Sea Robin launch vehicle system. This particular launch system is designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC).

The Sea Robin launch vehicle and XFC made its way to the ocean surface once deployed from the TLC, looking like a spar buoy at the top. From there, the XFC launched vertically from Sea Robin and flew several hours successfully. It also streamed live video back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk. 

Eventually, it landed at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in Andros, Bahamas.

Drone launch from USS Providence [SOURCE: NRL]

According to NRL, technology like this can offer the U.S. Navy's submarine force mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

"This six-year effort represents the best in collaboration of a Navy laboratory and industry to produce a technology that meets the needs of the special operations community," said Dr. Warren Schultz, program developer and manager, NRL. "The creativity and resourcefulness brought to this project by a unique team of scientists and engineers represents an unprecedented paradigm shift in UAV propulsion and launch systems." 

NRL said it received funding from SwampWorks at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office (DoD/RRTO). 

The Navy has had a lot of drone projects as of late. Back in August, it was announced that the Navy awarded four development contracts for its designs for the Unmanned Carrier Launch Airborne Surveillance and Strike Air Vehicle (UCLASS). Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautics Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman were awarded contracts of $15 million each. 

Back in March, the Navy launched its first unmanned X-47B aircraft from the flight carrier deck. 

Source: U.S. Navy

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